Unless you follow me or Mike Nesmith on social media, you probably didn’t know there was a new Monkees album out (after all, they’re almost 75 years old and only 3/4 of the original band remains). But I’m here to tell you that it dropped on Friday and it is ACTUALLY QUITE GOOD.
The album is called —wait for it—Good Times!, and as much as I wish the name was a little more…inventive, I must admit it effectively embraces the cheerful, shameless nostalgia that is the Monkees. At least it’s a better idea than Pool It! (fun fact: I have a signed copy of Pool It!, which I’m pretty sure my dad is going to donate if I don’t take it with me next time I visit).
So anyway, on Friday I donned my Nez hat and went by myself to a Monkees listening party at Amoeba Records, to celebrate the release of the new album while browsing record stacks.
The “party” was pretty subdued, mostly boomers and a couple of very nice Amoeba employees, so I kept my intense fangirling to myself. But it was so fun to hear new Monkees music voice blasting over the speakers while record browsing. Not to mention, I got so much free swag!
There were also cupcakes and cookies, so all in all it was probably the best possible way to spend my Friday evening.
Some album highlights, in case you’re interested:
“Me & Magdalena” is straight-up beautiful. It was released a couple weeks ago and I’ve been listening to it wayyyy more than a normal person should. The song was written by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab/Postal Service fame (a whole other kind of nostalgia), and is probably the best ballad the Monkees have ever done. Go listen to it.
“Wasn’t Born To Follow” – I first heard this song on the Easy Rider soundtrack and since then it’s always been a favorite (I only recently heard Carole King’s version, even though she was the one who wrote the song!). I was so pleasantly surprised to hear Peter’s lovely, un-countrified rendition…honestly I think he sounds better than ever?!
No Monkees album would be complete without the voice of Davy Jones, and I’m so glad they chose to include “Love to Love.” It’s a Neil Diamond tune originally recorded in 1967, and really tops off the whole 60s throwback vibe. Hearing this song only made me sad that there was no more Davy on the album. Micky probably sang the most original hits, but in so many ways, Davy was the voice and face of the Monkees. MISS U, MANCHESTER COWBOY.
This is really difficult for me, but my ONE skip track is Nez’s original song “I Know What I Know” (I’m sorry, Mike!!). I’ve always been a bigger fan of his more upbeat, weird country stuff, so this one didn’t really do it for me.
“I Was There (And I’m Told I Had A Good Time)” – I’m mostly just impressed at how many Beatlesque sounds they managed to fit into a 2-minute song. Did you know this song was co-written by Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne, who also happened to produce the entire album? Other songwriting credits for Good Times! go to Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Rivers Cuomo, and Andy Partridge. Also, the title track features Micky doing a duet with Harry Nilsson, so that’s pretty cool.
The bottom line: this new album isn’t trying to be hip or modern or anything else but a solid collection of 60s-inspired pop songs (several of them were in fact written in the 60s) and I mean, it just works so well. I love the fact that it’s a collaboration with hit songwriters from both the past and present, and that the guys seemed to have had a blast recording it. Personally, I had a blast listening to it, and still can’t get the songs out of my head.
Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to go live vicariously through my Monkees DVDs while wishing I was born 40 years earlier…